Jason Collins Says 'I'm Gay' in the NBA: Why This Is Huge

Writing at the Huffington Post, Michelangelo Signorile says that Washington Wizards center Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay is "huge" because he is helping to break down barriers for LGBT rights.

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Jason Collins (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In the Huffington Post, Michelangelo Signorile applauds Washington Wizards center Jason Collins' decision to announce that he is gay, saying that it will go a long way toward helping to break down barriers for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

The magnitude of NBA player Jason Collins' coming out today cannot be overestimated. He breaks a barrier that we've been waiting for someone to plunge through: a major league sports player saying "I'm gay" while still playing and at the height of his career. We've seen former major league football players and others come out after retirement, but until now, no one has dared say it while still playing major league sports.

There's been enormous progress on LGBT rights in the courts and in the public opinion polls, yet for all that progress it's still true that no leading man or woman in Hollywood, the kind of people who, like it or not, are idolized by young people in our culture, has dared come out of the closet. And that was true of the world of professional sports until today.

It's important for young people when anyone comes out, be it an educator, a parent, a brother or sister, a community leader or a politician. It creates enormous visibility and tells them that it's safe to come out if they are gay, lesbian or bisexual themselves. And if they're heterosexual, it tells them that gay people deserve respect. But it's especially powerful for someone to come out in the macho world of professional sports, where homophobia has been allowed to flourish over the years. (Only very recently have the leagues and the teams begun to speak out against homophobia.) The message to young Americans, even in the midst of the strides of the gay marriage movement, has been clear: Gays may be out on television, in schools and even in our families, but if they know what's best for them, they'd better stay cowering in the closet in the world of sports.

Read Michelangelo Signorile's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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